Get a Brighter, Whiter Smile

Here we show you easy ways to keep your teeth looking sparkly white.

get a whiter smile

Photo by: JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images

Whether you’re applying strips at home or seeing your dentist for an in-office treatment, all the bleaching in the world won’t do any good if you still smoke or bathe those teeth in black coffee every day—that smile will snap back to yellow or brown in no time. Here’s how to make sure your teeth stay white, bright and healthy.


Eating Anything that’s sticky and dark (think: barbecue sauce) is going to cling to teeth when you eat it; if it’s warm, it’ll penetrate the surface too, causing even deeper stains. If you can’t avoid such foods, chase each bite with water (whether sparking or flat) and swish it around in your mouth for a few seconds to rinse away the residue, says Emmanuel Layliev, DDS, a cosmetic dentist in New York City. Also beware of colored candies, gums and popsicles—the types that turn your tongue purple or red. They can stain teeth too, if consumed regularly.


Drinking Dark beverages bathe your entire mouth in a tooth-tinting liquid, which is bad news for your whitened smile. (A good rule of thumb: If it would stain a white T-shirt, it will stain your teeth!) Switching from red wine to white wine should help, and having a piece of cheese beforehand can build a calcium barrier that protects teeth from tinting. As for coffee, you can try sipping it through a straw (take care to suck with pursing, to avoid lip lines), or at least add milk. It acts as a buffer to coffee’s tooth-eroding acid, which makes stains seep deeper.


Cleaning Flossing is important to remove residue, and you can do that directly after eating. As for brushing, though, you’ll want to wait about 30 minutes. “After we eat, the pH within the mouth is very acidic and any type of normal brushing will erode enamel,” says Dr. Layliev. When it is time to brush? That’s where those whitening toothpastes and mouthwashes finally come in—just make sure the rinse is color-free, dentists warn. They work like exfoliants, scrubbing stains from the surface before they have a chance to penetrate the tooth. Dr. Layliev likes the Dentisse line, which uses Kaolin clay as the active ingredient: “The paste has tested best in removing stains without over abrading the enamel,” he says. “But since it doesn’t have fluoride, I’d use a regular fluoride toothpaste once a day too.” Reminder: No matter what you use, make sure you’re brushing for a full 2 minutes.


Savings tip: Brush with baking soda and water In a pinch, this DIY mixture can function like a whitening toothpaste, but it’s more abrasive and doesn’t kill bacteria that cause cavities—so use it just once or twice a week to avoid damaging your teeth’s enamel.


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